Boeing CST-100 Starliner Heads to Launch Site Ahead of Maiden Voyage

Pablo Tucker
November 23, 2019

As Boeing moved its Starliner crew capsule to its pad Thursday for a launch next month, the company revealed the name of the test dummy on board.

Starliner now sits atop its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at ULA's Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), where it awaits the Integrated Systems Test; a tip-to-tail electrical check of the 172-foot-tall Atlas V and Starliner stack to verify all elements are communicating properly.

After leaving Kennedy Space Centre, Boeing's Starliner crew capsule gets hoisted atop its Atlas V launcher. The original dragon carried out supply runs to the ISS for several years so that he could test the crewed (autonomous) version earlier this year. The spaceship is scheduled to fly in December.

Boeing's CST-100 is a new design, but based on the classic Apollo command module.

If all goes as planned, following Rosie's and Ripley's test trips, NASA astronauts will make history flying in American-built spacecraft launched from USA grounds in 2020. The second test flight, which will use a different spacecraft to take Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, along with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann to the station is planned for next year.

With the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts, along with their worldwide partners in the U.S. On-Orbit Segment (USOS) - the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency - were left to hitch a ride on Soyuz rockets. Unlike SpaceX, Boeing doesn't make its own rockets. Then, it will automatically dock with one of the available ports on the ISS. After a short stay, the CST-100 will detach from the station and return to Earth for further analysis.

The capsules used to ferry astronauts will be fully reusable after some refurbishment, which should make the seats less expensive. However, a recent NASA Office of Inspector General (IOG) report says that a single seat on the Starliner might cost NASA as much as $90 million. The rocket generates about 1.6 million lbs of thrust at launch. The potential ticket price of Boeing even exceeds the $ 85 million that NASA now pays for a single Russian Soyuz seat.

If everything goes as planned with the upcoming test flight, the CST-100 could start flying people into space in early 2020.

The report found that NASA could have saved about $144 million if they waited to pay Boeing closer to the time of the missions.

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